Dark Passage (1947) 3.29/5 (2)


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Rating: The Good – 67.8
Genre: Film-Noir
Duration: 106 mins
Director: Delmer Daves
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Bruce Bennett

Escaped prisoner, Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart), maintains he has been wrongly convicted of killing his wife and finds shelter with a woman (Lauren Bacall) who has taken a peculiar interest in his case. To stay hidden he pays a backstreet doctor to surgically alter his face but, nonetheless, various unsavoury characters begin to suspect who he really is. Bogie and Bacall paired up for four films-noir and three of those (To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, and Key Largo) ended up being among the most celebrated and respected movies of the genre. Dark Passage was their third outing of the four and it’s the runt of the litter given a lack of directorial punch in the latter scenes and a slack script overall. Delmer Daves opens the film with an interesting use of a handheld camera which he uses to simulate the first person perspective of Bogart’s Parry (strong echoes of The Lady in the Lake here). He persists with this until Parry gets the facelift (at which point it shifts to traditional perspective) but it still works rather effectively.

Daves also presents us with a reasonably sophisticated looking film that utilises the noir friendly ambience of San Francisco and complements it with some beautifully lit interior and exterior shots. But as the story progresses, he allows much of the tension to spill. As such, the second-third act transition labours forward. This isn’t helped by his adapted screenplay (of David Goodis’ novel) which consistently fails to generate the romantic tension necessary to drive the plot nor (not to mention) make Bacall and Bogart sizzle. The dialogue has its moments but, for the most part, it runs off a little flat compared to the aforementioned classics. It just lacks the snap that defined the interchanges between Slim and Harry or Vivian and Marlowe. The two leads do attempt to compensate for this and their natural screen presence both alone and together helps substantially in this regard. While weak in plot at certain points, the story plays out in a manner that fans of The Shawshank Redemption will find very familiar and appreciate but yet again it lacks the layers that defined the classic noirs, especially those that were usually built around the class of Bogie and Bacall. It’s that class that ultimately makes Dark Passage a worthy watch but one is left wondering what a tighter script and more polished direction would have produced.

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